12 top questions you must ask before planning your next fundraising event
Are benefit auctions, special event fundraisers, and charity galas right for you? In most cases, the answer is a resounding yes. When designed and executed strategically, these fundraising events can be your golden gateway to significant fundraising and long-term donor engagement.
Hundreds of thousands of organizations rely on annual benefit auctions as a staple in their development plans. However, many organizations mistakenly rely only on event fundraising to fuel their mission. Unfortunately many auctions leave money in the room and fail to engage donors. However, strategically designed and executed fundraising and charity auctions continue to prove to be highly successful fundraisers for non-profits, associations, and schools of all stripes.
The most important factor in launching a first-time or annual benefit auction is to have the organization’s board of directors buy into the very labor-intensive, long-term planning required for a successful fundraising event. A benefit auction event must fit into your organization’s overall annual fundraising and donor development plan. There are so many other aspects of donor engagement and strategic fundraising that need to be in place, for annual giving, major gifts, planned giving, capital campaigns and other special initiatives. Be sure to ask these 12 key questions to maximize your fundraising and donor development at your next benefit auction.
12 Top Questions for First-Time Benefit Auctions and Every Year, Really…
- Why do you want to have an auction?
- Is there another way to raise funds?
- Will you raise sufficient funds to even warrant the effort?
- Do you have the needed leadership?
- Do you have a large active auction committee?
- Do you have enough staff and volunteer support?
- Is there ample time – 6-11 months to plan?
- What are your goals: fundraising, donor engagement, fun, awareness?
- How do these goals fit with your annual fundraising plan?
- How will this event engage and retain donors?
- Do you have the full commitment of the board and organization?
- Do you have a robust donor cultivation plan for after your event?
Whether you are conducting your first or 30th auction fundraiser, as part of your evaluation each year, revisit your benefit auction event. Don’t just blindly start a new event without figuring out what worked and what needs improvement based on the prior year’s event. Take the time to capture this feedback in writing and talk with your board, sponsors and donors.
Across the country auction chairpersons, staff and volunteers often base their fundraising benefit auctions on ideas they have seen at other benefit fundraisers. This can be a mistake, because many of those ideas date from the old one-time event fundraising mentality instead of the philanthropy model where donor engagement is vital. Benefit auctions are labor intensive, and success depends on the hard work and dedication of volunteers who often work too hard to use strategies that are not relevant to today’s audiences. For more in-depth look, check out my book A Higher Bid.
By learning and using the fundraising auction strategies and techniques presented in this book, your auction team can work strategically to produce record-breaking fundraising and donor retention success. What are you doing to achieve benefit auction success each year? What evaluation methods work best for you? Please share your insights and ideas below, thank you!